Burn After Reading

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Rating: R

Starring:
George Clooney as Harry Pfarrer
Frances McDormand as Linda Litzke
John Malkovich as Osbourne Cox
Tilda Swinton as Katie Cox
Brad Pitt as Chad Feldheimer
Richard Jenkins as Ted Treffon
Elizabeth Marvel as Sandy Pfarrer
David Rasche as CIA Officer
J.K. Simmons as CIA Superior
Olek Krupa as Krapotkin
Michael Countryman as Alan
Kevin Sussman as Divorce Lawyer #1
J.R. Horne as Divorce Lawyer #2
Hamilton Clancy as Peck
Armand Schultz as Olson

Special Features:
Finding The Burn: The making of “Burn After Reading.”
DC Insiders Run Amuck: An all-star cast creates the world of Washington, DC, insiders all trying to get ahead or find true love.
Welcome Back, George: This comedy piece features Mr. Clooney as he returns for his third collaboration with Ethan and Joel.

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Tracks
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the official DVD description:

“An all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich, come together in this outrageous spy comedy about murder, blackmail, sex addiction and physical fitness!

When a disc filled with some of the CIA’s most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone’s and anyone’s control, resulting in a non-stop series of hilarious encounters!

From Joel and Ethan Coen, the Academy Award-winning directors of ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘The Big Lebowski,’ comes this brilliantly clever and endlessly entertaining movie.”

“Burn After Reading” is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence.

Mini-Review:
I went into ‘Burn After Reading’ expecting something like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Some sort of light comedy filled with great performances and a heaping helping of quirk. I was wrong. Oh, there was some light comedy and there was some quirk. But there was also a lot of dark comedy, slapstick comedy, sex comedy, and drama. In fact, there’s one particular scene that best represents this change in tone. A character gets killed in a sudden and shocking way, and the audience is left dumbstruck that it happened. The story, at that point, goes from something that’s very light to very dark, but still funny. The jumping around in tone hurts “Burn After Reading” some, but there’s enough good stuff here to make it worth checking out.

This film has a great ensemble cast. A standout among them is Brad Pitt as Chad Feldheimer. He’s a socially inept jock that is as clueless as he is energetic. You can tell Pitt revels in playing the role and every time he’s on the screen he steals the show. Also notable is John Malkovich as Osbourne Cox. He’s incredibly arrogant and filled with rage. Put him and Chad together and you have comedy gold. George Clooney is appropriately slimy as Harry Pfarrer (I have a theory that you shouldn’t trust any man that wears a gold chain. This reinforces that.) Frances McDormand is also interesting as Linda Litzke, a woman so obsessed with her looks and searching for happiness that she can’t appreciate what’s right in front of her. It’s amazing how far she’s willing to sink in order to get plastic surgery. I also loved seeing David “Sledgehammer” Rasche and J.K. Simmons as CIA agents. Their confusion over the entire situation provides hilarious interludes and exposition in between everything that happens.

I gave this film a lower (yet still positive) rating because the overall story was just ‘eh’. A whole lot happens off of the screen, too, which would have been fun to see. Combine that with the dramatic changes in tone and it’s not as good as some of the other Coen films.

“Burn After Reading” is funny, but expect it to get quite dark. Fans of the Coen brothers should enjoy it as well as fans of any of the ensemble cast.

This DVD is surprisingly light on the bonus features. There’s a short ‘making of’ featurette, a featurette on the casting, and a video on George Clooney. It’s fun to listen to, but it feels all too brief.

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